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30 posts categorized "Food for Thought"

December 6, 2017

Not Your Grandmother’s Fruitcake

By Emily Caldwell Fruitcake

‘Tis the season for love, joy, and satisfying sweet cravings. After dinner is done, serve your customers the best gift of all, the cookie and dessert tray! Include holiday classic favorites like spiced gingerbread cookies drizzled with rich royal icing, buttery shortbread, or sugar cookie Christmas cutouts, all perfectly complemented with a tall glass of rich eggnog. But most importantly, don’t forget the fruitcake!


This quintessential Christmas cake follows a vintage recipe stuffed with fruits, nuts and filled with spirits — literally! The once iconic loaf was a celebrated treat enjoyed at weddings, birthdays, Christmas parties, and gift exchanges. Tales from the Middle Ages recall that early crusaders would pack a few slices of the sweet loaf to nourish them on their long travels. As time progressed, so did the fruitcake. In 18th century Victorian England, plum cakes were the new replacement being served with tea. Although the American version stems from the English and their plum cake, the origins of the infamous cake dates back to the ancient Romans. Since these early forms of the holiday cake, we have seen a globalized adoption and adaptation of the recipe from other countries. From the Spanish and Mexican pastry ring of Rosca de Reyes to the Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) rolled neatly in France, each country bears their own fruitful tradition.

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November 1, 2017

Accommodating Vegan and Gluten-Free Holiday Guests

Vegetarian meal small

By Emily Caldwell

Fall is here! But even though the weather is getting cooler, the kitchen is heating up! It's the start of the holiday season and people are beginning to come home to celebrate the festivities with family, friends, and loved ones. But as your customers gather around your dinner table to give thanks and revel in the mouthwatering feast you have prepared, it is crucial to remember your customers and their dietary needs. By providing vegan and gluten-free options during the upcoming Thanksgiving season you can be the holiday hero and give everyone something to be thankful for.

Many customers are adopting vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free lifestyles for health benefits and ethical reasons. Although their diets may be restrictive, they still want to be able to indulge on the same comforting dishes that are featured on your menu. Good thing most classic holiday dishes can easily be adjusted with a variety of convenient ingredients.

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August 2, 2017

Tastes Like Home

Nostalgia

By Emily Caldwell

Take your customers on a trip down memory lane by incorporating flavors in your menu that can be found in their childhood favorite meals and experiences. Give them a twist on Mom’s brown-bag classics to reminisce over lunch. Remind them of dinners at Grandma’s filled with smiles and Sloppy Joe’s. People tend to associate food with sentiments from their past — foods that taste good can make us feel good too.

As the years go by, we often reflect back on old memories and can develop a sense of nostalgia or a longing for the past. Seen in recent movie and television reboots, games and clothing, nostalgic marketing is taking over various markets and industries. *Forbes explains that this nostalgia tactic embodies the idea of tapping into positive cultural memories from previous decades. Although originally adapted to attract millennials to specific products, it is now seen as a successful strategy to engage with all age groups. Through nostalgic marketing, businesses can connect to their audience through cross-cultural and generational appeals. People love sentiments from their past — from the colors, packaging, smells, and taste, they appreciate the positive emotions that it can evoke.

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July 3, 2017

Complements for your Cocktails

Bar_snacks

By Piet E. Jones

Your customers are having drinks at the bar and need a little something to snack on, so offer up some old time bar snacks. Something salty and crunchy that is bursting with flavor and easy to eat. Include dishes that not only complement your bar beverages, but help entice your customers to order more.

Nuts are an easy choice, but pre-made nut mixes can be a bit pricey and not very exciting. Bulk raw nuts, on the other hand, can be bought for much less and can easily be custom roasted in-house to create your own signature nut dish. Almonds are great for such a snack - especially if peeled. You could create your own honey roasted almonds with honey, balsamic vinegar, demerara sugar and sel gris. Or go for something more exotic, by tossing the almonds with za’atar and olive oil.

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March 1, 2017

Pollock – America's Other White Fish

Gray pollock2

By Piet E. Jones

“Monday fish hardly worth elevating to Friday.” That was how James Beard award winning British food writer, Jane Grigson, dismissed pollock in her 1973 tome, Fish Cookery.  “Tasteless” and “muddy” were some of the other words she used to describe the poor, lamented pollock.

But that was many years ago, tastes change and what was once out is now hot.  Diners today don’t want strong, fishy seafood.  What Grigson called “tasteless,” today we describe as “delicate.”  The “muddy” color that offended her?  Our eyes see a beautiful ivory fillet.  Don’t forget, in colonial America indentured servants in New England demanded a clause in their contracts not to be fed too much lobster - a burden many of us today would gladly welcome.

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January 27, 2017

2017 Food Trends: Part 4 African Menu Strategies

Lamb
By Piet E. Jones

So, you’ve decided to add a little African flair to your menu. Great! Now what? It might be the trending flavor at the moment, but if you don’t capitalize it properly, you may find it languishing and dying on your menu. What to do? Well, there are a few strategies to get those dishes out of your kitchen and onto the tables.

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January 20, 2017

2017 Food Trends: The Flavors of Africa Part 3, Southern Shores

South africa
The South African national dish bobotie features ground beef and lamb browned with onions, garlic, curry, turmeric, chopped apricots, apples, raisins, and almonds along with the zest of a lemon and a beaten egg to hold it all together.


By Piet E. Jones

Wrapping up our look at African cuisine, we move south and to the islands off the eastern coast. The flavors get a little lighter but are no less unique and exciting.

South Africa

Fish is abundant in South Africa and one of the preferred methods for cooking fish is in banana or plantain leaves. Either a whole or filleted fish can work, score the skin if whole, salt generously, add lemon or sliced leeks or onions, maybe a splash of wine, then wrap tightly—no steam should be able to escape.  An oven can work, but to really exploit this method, low burning coals are the best. A little charring is okay, but don’t let the leaves burn. The result is an intensifying of the flavors without it becoming fishy, not to mention the wrapped fish looking stunning on the plate. 

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January 10, 2017

2017 Food Trends: The Flavors of Africa Part 2, North Africa

Tagine_foodcentric
Lamb tagine with chickpeas, apricots and pomegranate seeds.

By Piet E. Jones


Our journey across African cuisine continues. Next we find ourselves north of the Sahara and along the upper eastern coast. Here the cuisine is a convergence of African with Middle Eastern and Asian influences. One spice, cardamom, is used across Africa but comes into play with heavy prominence here where its earthy flavor adds to the fragrant mix of the cooking. In the United States cardamom tends to be most frequently used in desserts, but maybe it’s time to take some of it up to the main line of your kitchen.

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January 3, 2017

2017 Food Trends: The Flavors of Africa Part 1

Foodcentric_jollof_rice
Jollof Rice with fried plantains

By Piet E. Jones

Every year, the prognosticators polish off their crystal balls and try to predict what the next hot trends in dining will be. Getting ahead of the next of the next big thing in dining can be great for keeping the buzz going about your restaurant—fine tuning your dishes to perfection so you’re the one people think of when the trend peaks and every local publication is churning out “best-of” listicles for where to get that dish. Sure, not every trend will work for your restaurant, but look at how ramen, a dish that popped huge a few years ago and is still winding its way towards peak saturation, has shown up on the unlikeliest of menus. The key is identifying the key trends early and finding what techniques and ingredients can complement your dining philosophy and excite your customers.

For 2017, one trend that has been identified by those with their ears to the ground is African cuisine.  Which leads many a chef to draw a complete and total blank.  First, that’s a bit like saying the trend is European cooking and, while that might be more familiar, is equally broad and undefined. Then there’s the reality that many chefs in America are simply unfamiliar with what might constitute African cooking.  A quick look across the vast continent, though, and you’ll find an array of techniques and rich, earthy flavors that can be easily incorporated into your existing menu.  It’s just a matter of narrowing your focus and finding the right region or country for your inspiration. Let’s start with Central Africa.

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October 31, 2016

How to Open on Thanksgiving Without Making Your Entire Staff Hate You

By: Piet E. Jones

Thanksgiving_foodcentricGreat, you’ve decided to open for Thanksgiving. Now the next question, how do you pull this off without sending staff morale into the basement? Competition for both front- and back-of-house staff is fierce, especially for experienced and competent employees. Sure, you may get through the holiday without anyone actually quitting, but a month or two down the line when the new locavore bistro around the corner opens or there’s a position at a downtown high-end hot spot, your staffers may remember not being able to spend a holiday with their family and be more open to making a move. Watching that sous chef you’ve spent the last year training and grooming or the bartender who created your hot cocktail program walk out the door represents a lost investment and can be disruptive to your future earnings.

Striking a balance for both the business and your staff is key. Some restaurants, especially those in hotels or resorts, are expected to be open. Others have a long history of holiday dining. Employees recognize this but, in terms of your staff, make sure days like this aren’t taken for granted. A few relatively simple steps can go a long way toward making them feel better about missing time with their families.

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